Saturday, December 2, 2017

HOLIDAY SPARKLE


Hey, December!  You're here. This is it!  You made it!  Does this sound familiar?  If you watch Jimmy Fallon, it's the beginning of his monologue every night.  I guess its compassion for all of those tired people waiting outside for hours, then getting seats, and again, waiting for hours.  I just couldn't do it, as much as I love him. 

These are the gorgeous flowers I received from my niece, who came to Thanksgiving dinner with her kids.  My niece is my age, I think that's sort of cool.  And it leads me to a little tale that probably means nothing at all to any of you.  

My husband was the youngest of 4 boys.  The two eldest were born, and had left home, when he and his brother were born.  Thus, an age gap of twenty years.  Hmmmm...not sure what happened here.  So, these older brothers have children as old as The Husband and his brother.   

While I'm telling family stories, it's very sad that The Husband's mother passed away from cancer when he was just 4 years old.  He and his brother had a live-in 'housekeeper', for lack of better description at the time.  Even more interesting, she was a native American Indian.  I can't say that The Husband shares a whole lot of memories of this time in his life, it is what it is.  Shortly before The Husband left for college, Viva passed away, and soon after, his father. 

I got away from myself here.     



Another bouquet for our table.  I had no intention of doing any sort of centerpiece.  Our dining table is just too small, it's ridiculous.  Deb's flowers were perfect.  I had a buffet, as usual, but to my credit I used dinner plates, cloth napkins and silver-plate.  A little touch of pampering.  

Things ran like a well oiled machine until later in the evening, at the time when we had a nice amount of extended family for dessert and good cheer.  A mouse was spotted in the kitchen and you would have thought it was a grizzly bear.  Of course, I was mortified; mouse = dirty house.  I do not have a dirty house!  The wicked varmint enter through the attached garage every fall, and whether you like it or not, I have poison planted everywhere.  I must have forgotten the garage.  When the squeals started, The Husband suddenly became very interested in the person he was conversing with.  My wonderful brother in law stood up, and announced he would take care of it.  Born and raised on a farm in Ireland, he wasn't feeling much fear.  I wanted to smack my forehead, and say our pet mouse, Mickey, must have gotten out of his cage.  But then another when came running out.  Sigh.

I don't think I've been as mortified as this since a bat flew into the lakehouse when we had guests.  The Husband ran around with a fishing net, while my women friends dived for cover under tables.  A story for another day.  So how was your Thanksgiving?

    

I made meals with the leftover turkey, but I'm happy to say there wasn't much left over  My niece has 3 hulking, Irish boys, and when I say hooray on the dent made in my casseroles of food, I mean that.  They liked it!  I did make a great dish with the leftovers that you may want to do after Christmas if you make turkey, or you can substitute chicken.  That's at the end of my post.  And the broccolini dish I made was delicious and got a thumbs up.  The recipe was included in my last post, you can find it here.  

The Saturday night after the holiday, I was so "carbed' out, I wanted something fresh and clean.  I love sushi, and I was craving it so bad.  We have 2 great places blocks from us.  One is small, but the dining room is splendid.  We love the owners, they come and sit with us to chat for a bit.  The other is absolutely huge, but the service is excellent and the menu features Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and they have a few hibachi tables.  So...we tried a new place that recently opened, right smack in the same area as our favorite two.  It was excellent.  You can see the sushi dinner I ordered.  The Husband had his Teriyaki chicken.  He loves anything sweet.  And we shared lo Mien noodles (that put me back on the carb train).  Portions were huge, of course, and we had a few meals over the next two days.  


 It was a group effort in bringing up the Christmas decor from downstairs last week.  Group, as in me and The Husband.  I carried the bins to the landing, he carried everything back to the family room.  And there it sits, with a small stack of wrapped presents, and a much larger stack of UPS delivered packages and boxes.  I'm so good at shopping, especially online.  Is that not fun or what?  I love to get catalogs in the mail, they seem to zoom in on the best ideas, then I open that laptop and away we go.   I've always been an avid shopper, I have a black belt.  And Christmas is the best time ever.  

I found this wreath on Wayfair.  I've been looking far and wide for something lifelike, pretty, and reasonably priced.  I think this was about $35, and is 24 inches in diameter.  You can shape it any way you want, and since I took this shot, I added a plaid initial 'B' ornament to the bottom.  


The highlight all of the festivities of the holiday had to be Abigail's longtime boyfriend, Tom, proposing to her the day before Thanksgiving.  It was a real blessing.  Our family couldn't ask for more in a husband and life long partner for our daughter. 

They met shortly after high school graduation 8 years ago, at a party on one of Chicago's beaches.  Although Tom grew up nearby, and went to school on the same campus as Abby, they had never truly run into each other.  But they clicked.  Like a sad movie, he headed off to college in Michigan 2 weeks later, and she downstate in Illinois.  It was a challenging 4 years, but they were committed.  

 And now, for the past 2 years they have lived in an apartment in the city with Squall, their rescued pup/child.  They are both teaching and really loving their careers.  And to my relief, they are looking for a home in our neighborhood.  She claims they want a big backyard for Squall, and a brother or sister for him.  I think she has finally decided she has seen enough of the big city and wants to come back to our close and familiar neighborhood   

A really great celebration was hosted by Tom's father the night before Thanksgiving.  So many friends they grew up with, family members on both sides, and cheers all around.  Her sparking ring is stunning.  I think she is still smiling!   

Oh---remember those gorgeous velvet boots in my last post? I thought they were going to be uncomfortable because they were really meant for someone taller.  Well, I wore them to this little engagement party and they were very comfortable.   The nice little heel was perfect for me to stand alright for hours.  I'd love to wear them everyday but they aren't waterproof.  The link to where I bought them is on that last post.  


Finally, I never want to see anything that flew in a previous life for at least another six months.  I'm craving carbs to no end in spite of my attempt to cleanse myself with the sushi.  Bread, pasta, noodle soup...when you go off the deep end you tend to say, let's get it out of the system.  I'm laughing here, but truly, I've been beating myself up.  I try to find comfort in knowing a lot of people are out there  loosening their belt buckles, but I've been sitting on my butt, writing for my papers (a good thing of course), but having my share of movies, news and of course, salty snacks to keep me fortified for all the drama.  Ahem.  

I made turkey tetrazzini with the bit of meat left over.  I really like to spice up the recipe or it comes out tasting like Elmer's glue.  I also use the shredded Parmesan cheese as opposed to the fine, it makes a little crust with the bread crumbs.  I hope you enjoy this.

Turkey Tetrazzini

2 c. cooked, shredded turkey, light and dark meat
8 oz. package egg noodles
4 T butter**
3 T flour
1 1/2 c chicken broth
1 t dried thyme
1 1/2 t. garlic powder
1 1/2 t onion powder
1/2 c frozen peas and carrots
1/2 c half & half
1/4 c  fine breadcrumbs
1/4 c Parmesan cheese
S & P to taste*

Boil the noodles according to package directions.
Drain and pour into a 1 3/4 quart casserole.  Top with shredded turkey, spreading evenly.  

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Whisk in flour and keep whisking for approximately 1-2 minutes until the mixture is light brown.  Slowly add in the broth, whisking as you go. Once blended,  turn up heat until the mixture reaches a boil.  Add the peas and carrots and keep stirring until thickened.  Add your dry spices and half and half.  Taste and adjust seasonings, this recipe needs enough salt to keep your taste buds happy, so feel free to adjust*.  

Pour mixture over the turkey and noodles in the casserole dish.  Top with the bread crumbs**.  I like to add a few pats of butter over the crumbs for more flavor.  Finally, the  Parmesan cheese.  Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes until bubbly.  You can turn on your broiler, watching closely, to brown the top if you'd like.  Any leftovers can be frozen.  Enjoy!


******

I never have a television on during the day-it's a distraction when I work, and even while housecleaning, I tend stop to watch The View or Ellen.  Excellent shows, and I'm very addictive to stuff like this.  Come evening, I like a bit of fantasy and drama.  Later, I turn on CNN.  I know, I'm a paradox.  In my little television world, may I share some thoughts?

~~~I absolutely adore holiday Hallmark movies.  I can't exactly pin why, I'm sure it has become a Christmas tradition for a lot of people.  The channel seems to have run with that thought, they have themes throughout the year now--romance in February, wedding movies in June.  As far as the Christmas movies, I have an eye for detail, so I do notice when there is a snowball fight scene and the actress is later shown minutes after in her high heels.  I wonder what they are thinking.  The empty coffee cups are slightly absurd also.  At least fill them with water. They lift up these plastic cups as if they are featherweight, sip and never swallow, and when they are set down, they sound hollow.   I've also noticed a new effect where the snowflakes drift down in front of the camera, as opposed to a major job in the background.  Sadly, the actors never have so much as a flake in their coiffed hair.  

~~~Two of the movies I've seen so far that I really like are The Christmas Train and Mistletoe Inn.  I love the actors in both and it's not a coincidence, each movie involves writers grappling with their novels, and their relationships.  As a frustrated writer with lofty dreams, I simply love the premises and shared emotions in these characters.  I have to say they aren't really sappy either.

~~~How many House Hunter shows are there in film storage?  After 9:00 p.m., you are not going to find anything other than these terrible shows on HGTV.   There was a time when I somewhat enjoyed watching, especially the international house hunting.  And then a episode came on where a woman complained about an apartment in Spain because it didn't have a microwave oven.  Was she nuts, or the producers who decided to air this episode?  Is there a script involved?


Now I'm off to do some cleaning and organizing of Christmas decor.  I may even toss a few jolly throws on the sofa, and tuck in some pillows.  Maybe get some gift wrapping going.  It sounds insane, but I have an inner clock telling me to be absolutely finished with everything by the 10th of the month.  I want to know that the stress is over, and I can just flow along at my own speed doing whatever I want, like making cookies, or meeting up with friends for a cocktail.  Wish me luck on that!

Happy Holidays,

Jane








Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A LITTLE THANKSGIVING, A LITTLE CHRISTMAS, & MANY BLESSINGS


I'm sneaking in here as quick as I can before Thanksgiving, hoping you'll have a read either before, or if not, after the long weekend.  And for that weekend, I'm hoping to escape to the lake.  Playing it by ear.  

How quickly time is flying.  I'm up to speed on my work/writing, I even have short pause with the lake newspaper, publication goes on hiatus until March.   Once I know that area of my life is in check, I have time to try to get ahead on other things.  

Aren't these the most gorgeous cream colored roses?  I found the box on the porch this morning, wrapped just perfectly to keep them fresh and moist.   I thought maybe I had ordered something 'live' for the holidays and forgot.  Well, these were from Overstock.  And I mean they were a gift, a thank you from Overstock.  I guess I've been a pretty good customer over the years.  I recently rated my purchases on their website, maybe that made me worthy of a dozen roses.  Great company.



Lest you think I'm some sort of whirling dervish, I start every holiday season out like this.  I want to get ahead.  I want to feel like I can enjoy all of December without distraction and stress, you know-just really embrace the season.  If I have a lazy afternoon--make some sugar cookies, or work on a cross stitch ornament project that I started fifteen years ago.  

I've made great headway, both out and about, and online shopping as well.  It's keeping up with the wrapping that's hard.  Here I have a small start, I just have little Post It notes on each gift for now.  I need a trip to Michael's for some ribbon, jute and embellishments.  That's my favorite part of wrapping gifts.  I always find really cute gift tags in the $1 bins at Target, or should I say $3 bins?   Anyway, as long as I stay up to par wrapping, I'll be good.  It always seems UPS arrives just when I think I've wrapped the last present.

I'm excited about decorating the house as well.  I may do a little Christmas tour.  Two of my nieces, Maggie and Tricia, are coming next week to help.  I think it's a great bonding time, I sincerely miss the days so long ago that Emily and Abby worked a little magic around the house, and with our tree.  And I really love fresh ideas.  It will be fun, I'm giving them full creative license!



I've been doing a little winter clothing shopping as well.  I'm just starting to really clear all the summer stuff out of my dressers and closet, and as it always goes, I find myself lacking in decent winter clothes.  I've never really cared much for digging through the racks at Marshall's, but I'm liking that lately.  Shopping online can be a little disconcerting when it comes to clothing.  Sometimes you need to feel the fabric or see the quality.  These boots are a perfect example.  I wanted a nice pair of black boots to wear with anything from leggings to skinny jeans, to a dress with tights.  These Calvin Klein's are really cool.  Velvet in the front, leather in the back, gold details, and a small chunky heel.  However---I am embarrassingly short.  These go well over my knee in the front and pinch in the back when I sit down.  Grrrrr... I still love them.  What's a little pain if you feel marvelous?  By the way, I found these at 6pm.  If you've never been to the website, go.  Now.  Maybe measure yourself a bit first.  



I've really been in a cooking mood.  I'm still making a list of recipes to try before I grocery shop, but right now, with lists swirling in my head, I'm mostly operating on the mode of using what I have.  I happened to see a package of super thin pre-made pizza crusts at one of the stores I shop at.  I wish I could remember the brand, but you can probably find it where you see the Boboli crusts.  Despite what you think about Chicago pizza, we love both a thick and thin crust.  I personally think a thin crust just needs a little topping.  Just as I make a soup or stew with all those extra veggies in the fridge begging to be used, I did the same with the pizzas I made.  This one had a little red sauce I threw together, fresh zucchini, sliced red onion, small heirloom tomatoes, a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese and a little Italian seasoning.  No meat, no grease, and really quick.  The Husband gave it a thumbs up.  



I wanted to share a picture of my grandson, Brooks.  I can't believe he's going on 10 months old.  Isn't he going to be a lady killer?  He is son Jeff and Deirdre's little boy.  Busy schedules aside, we will be making up for lost time over the holidays.  If you look on my sidebar, you'll see a recent pic of him.  Oh, those blue eyes.  And now I have to have another daddy and mama give me a picture of Patsy, who is now 6 months old.  And yes, another blue eyed angel.  



Emily sent this picture of little Mad.  Look at that joyous face and sweet outfit.  Sadly, this was taken when she was on the exam table at the pediatrician just before her flu shot.  Ouch!  Not smiling too much after that, I'm sure.  I remember when my babies had their shots, I'm not sure who cried more.  I will say, they never looked this happy in the exam room before the shot either, this baby is the happiest little squirt you've ever seen.  Furthermore, who else would dare go to the doctor without wearing their tulle skirt and gold shoes?



So, I bet all of you have your Thanksgiving plans down; the turkey thawing and the bread slices drying out on the kitchen table.  I never went that route with my stuffing, as much of a traditionalist I might sound.  My late sister, Leslie, worked at Pepperidge Farm for twenty-five years, and I fear I'd be disloyal if I didn't use their mix.  In fact, I didn't see it when I was shopping the other day, and came thisclose to buying Brownberry.  Then I found it, and sighed as I looked toward the heavens.  I mean, she kept me well stocked with their cherry turnovers for years.  

I really wish I had the huge harvest table I have at the lake for holidays here.  Our table seats 4, we have an open floor plan and no dining room.  I have miraculously, or uncomfortably,  fit 8 people around this table for 4.  We have 11 for dinner this year, and I've lost count on how many for dessert.  I'll set the table and the counter peninsula and we're good to go.  I'm having the traditional turkey, stuffing (I may add a little pork sausage to it this year, shhhhh...the kids hate change) gravy, mashed potato casserole, sweet potatoes, corn, cranberry sauce, rolls and a new side dish I'm trying.  

Awhile ago I Pinned a recipe for roasted broccolini.  It's like a baby version of broccoli, a skinny version.  I was surprised to read in the description of the roasting procedure, that it's important to leave ample space around the veggies, or they will steam and not crisp up right.  Wow...I think I discovered why I've always failed with roasting vegetables.  I made Brussels sprouts tonight and spread them out really well.  Very good.  Using parchment paper is perfect to keep the vegetables from burning or sticking.  So here is the link to  Roasted Broccolini with Lemon and Parmesan Cheese.

A few last tried and true tips that I want to share about making Thanksgiving dinner a hit.  Getting all of your dinnerware, bowls, platters, and serving pieces together the day before is essential.  Check your wine glasses for spots, etc.  Make sure your napkins are presentable.  Prepare and refrigerate as many dishes as you can ahead of time.  Don't have any last minute house cleaning left except a bathroom touch up.  Put the turkey in, and then spend time getting yourself ready.  Shower, makeup, hair, clothes.  Wear an apron so you don't spill all over.  I was always the last one to join my guests as I saved myself for last.  

I want to thank all of you for your prayers for Milo, as well as comforting words, here and on Instagram as well.  This is my account.   He's doing really well.  He had the usual bloodwork today and I was also concerned that he had had a ton of diarrhea since Sunday night, the last bit today with a little blood in it.  My vet had me come over right away.  That in itself had me shaking and tearing up.  I'm not being very brave about any of this.  Well, the diarrhea could be a result of anything, he needed a few meals of rice and hamburger to bulk him up--boy, he loved that--, a remedy that's been around forever.  The blood was from his straining.  The really good news is that the swelling of his lymph nodes is almost down completely.  He's a trooper though, he takes good care of me.

I hope you had time to read all of this.  With no writing ahead of me for a week, I'll get back soon.  I want to hear all about your festivities, and see some of your family pictures.  I'll share the same.

Love and blessings,

Jane x 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

UP TO MY NECK



Hello, my friends!  And I mean that from the bottom of my heart.  Your words of support, and promises of prayers for my furry love, Milo, had me in awe every morning when I would open up my blog to read comments. I could never ask for more at this time in my life.  In my last long and rambling post, as per usual, you guys weighed in and supported me on my eye issue, as well as my devastation in getting the diagnosis for Milo.  And you also were so thoughtful in giving Miss Madelyn birthday wishes.  Who could ask for more?  I'm so grateful. 

My spirits have been lifted as I see Milo making progress--well, not progress, but not getting ill since his first chemotherapy.  He's been acting like an old man a bit more, he frequently stares at walls, lies down to sleep in odd places, and sits and stares at me for minutes on end.  Nothing to be troubled about, just not his normal self.   Still, I'm so happy to have him.

He takes Prednisone, and I was told this could make him more thirsty and needing to urinate more.  He had a few accidents, which seemed totally uncontrollable.  His legs would go weak and he would pretty much lose it, thankfully on the wood floor and not an area rug.  And so much...a huge puddle.  He looks ashamed and I try to soothe him.  He also frequently gives me his 'look', almost hourly in the evening, which means he has to go.  As you know, we spotted a coyote a few yards from our house not long ago (yep, here in the city), so I go out in the backyard with him with the floodlights on.  That fear of a wild animal, and being out late at night is not so great.  But I do it, I'm not letting him out alone, nor suffer with a full bladder.  Please know, I do have a broom on the back porch for defense.    

Well, I've rambled on long enough here.  I think things are going well.  As well as can be.  As well as I can ask for.  



When I feel like my life is spiraling out of control, I tend to cry, sulk, and sleep a lot.  Last week I pulled myself up by the bootstraps and decided I needed to start living and working on my own life.  I have been unorganized, undisciplined, and fretting over my writing deadlines. My fridge never seems to be stocked up, the laundry piles up until I'm out of my favorite, stretched out yoga pants, and the house can use a good cleaning.  

If you've been around awhile, you might often hear me say, "I'm going back to the gym."  Well, it's been 2 years and I haven't been back.  And this isn't a fairy tale ending, I haven't signed back up yet...but I'm determined.  




If you've been around awhile, you might have heard me often say, "I'm going back to the gym."  Well, it's been 2 years and I haven't been back.  And this isn't a fairy tale ending, I haven't signed back up.  But I'm determined to do it when I can fully commit.  

One thing I was really failing at was eating well.  Eating too much bread, pasta, even rice and grains, and while the latter 2 are healthy, the carbs are a no no for me.  I was wallowing in a lot of self pity, and also being lazy about preparing and cooking the right foods.  

I really enjoy Pinterest, and my favorite Pins are recipes.  My boards are mostly those, yet I rarely follow through on making anything from these boards.  

I buckled down, chose a few healthy recipes, wrote down the items I didn't have, and did my grocery shopping.  Hooray, I followed through on everything!  Some meals didn't turn out quite as good as I thought, but you learn.  I hope I can encourage some of you to do this as well.  I loved the challenge and loved accomplishing my goal.  Unlike the gym, I'm not investing money only to feel guilty and worthless if I fail.  But I will continue to push myself on that end.


I happened to be at Target last week looking for a 2018 planner.  I couldn't live without one, and I'm already scribbling things into the notes section of the December one I have.  Target always has some cool journals, notebooks, tablets, calendars, and planners.  I came across this and thought it was so pretty.  I thought it was just a food journal.  I had a little one a few years ago that I found at Barnes & Noble.  I checked there, and even on Amazon, and I hadn't found one.  It really helped me keep track of my meals, how far apart they were, when it seemed I snacked the most in a day...it was SO helpful.  

This is a really great journal.  It's not just a food diary, it's an uplifting guide to help you with your feelings about food, i.e., are you an emotional eater?  Do you snack out of boredom?  There are chapters that focus on how you feel good about yourself, lists of 'good for you foods', and at the end, a great diary for your daily meals to help you understand your eating patterns.

I will not hold back here, I make a regular attempt to post only pictures of myself that flatter.  I have a huge weight loss goal of about forty pounds.  That's a hefty amount my body doesn't need, and a real sign of neglect, lack of discipline, and unwillingness to commit to a healthy way of life.  I've only made half hearted attempts.  

I don't know if any of this menu planning or using a food journal will help.  I have to approach going to the gym as a goal to feel better, be healthy, and maybe one day, wear clothes that I can look good in.  Whoa- confession time!


  

As if I'm not challenging myself enough, or setting the bar too high, I decided to take on the endeavor of making tamales.  They look simple, but man, I was wrong.  The Husband is always raving about the ones he gets from a little Mexican place on his way home from work.  I really enjoy them, too, and I've wanted to take on some different types of regional cooking.  Okay, maybe I was jealous he was so loving something I didn't make myself.  ;-D

Oh, wow. I had no idea what I was getting into.  In the Latino culture, making tamales is very much a way to celebrate Christmas; a tradition that involves the women in the family working together; making dozens of tamales, chatting, enjoying the company, and later, sharing their hard work in gift giving.  

I obviously didn't get the part about doing this with others.  So far I have probably spent about fifteen hours shopping, cooking the meats (I'm making chicken and pork tamales), and making the sauces.  As of yet, I have not made the masa, which will hold everything together in the corn husks.  And then I have to steam them.  My recipes, and I combined a few to get what I felt was just right, will make about eighty tamales.  That's not unusual, as you want to gift your family and friends with about 2-3 per person.  I know, that's a lot, and I wish I had a hub of women to help me.  So far my girls, and The Husband, think I'm crazy.  I'm sorry-I like a challenge.  It keeps me busy and my mind off not so good things.



The Addams Family home, circa 2017

I promised you pics of the before and after of the landscaping, and improvements on our house.  Please don't cringe-I'm almost embarrassed to show you this.  These are permits in the window, not evacuation notices.  Also, the sidewalk had already been torn up.  The lawn was just terrible, and covered with the dust of the concrete work, as were the old, overgrown bushes, some had already been removed to make room for the porch.  Still, the ivy hadn't been trimmed all summer, and everything was just sad.  Remember, I was at the lake a good part of the summer and really turned my back on this house, I didn't even plant flowers or pots.  

I saw a porch as I was walking Madelyn in our neighborhood, I fell in love.  Two levels, and no ugly railings.  I found a mason who did a tremendous job on a porch for my friend, Snow.  He came, loved the design I chose and expanded the idea of using a replication of the limestone which you can see under the bay window to the right of the porch.  He did the driveway as well, which was in sad shape from the roots of the old maple we had cut down (see my last post).  And finally we had a new sidewalk done with pavers by another company, and new bushes and plants by a garden/landscape company.



The after.  Voila!  I think the biggest difference (and a decision I didn't want to face), was removing all of the ivy that wrapped around the house.  Even when trimmed, it looked unkempt, hid the pretty brick, and was causing damage by actually creeping inside the windows and damaging our gutters.  Lesson learned.

I had the shutters and trim painted a mossy green/gray, it's called Incognito by Behr from Home Depot.  I'm in love with it.  

Finally, the planting of the bushes and plants, as well as a good reseeding of the lawn, was done by a local company by the name of Garden Keepers.  It's owned by a terrific woman named Paula (Yay for women entrepreneurs!).  She came and took an educated look, talked to me about plant options; spacing, size, color, sunlight requirements, and answered just about any question I had.  

She was spot on.  My biggest request was that she didn't use very young bushes that would take a long time to grow and mature-I didn't want to look like a new construction landscape.  




We couldn't be happier.  In these pics we hadn't yet gotten new lights for the porch and garage.  The Husband picked copper lanterns with glass that exposes the old fashioned light bulbs.  We will also have the border in front of the bushes lined with 2 layers of flagstone, it just wasn't available in quantity so late in the season.

 My house is small, but it does extend back twice as far as it is wide.  Pretty much a typical small city lot.  Can you see the limestone on the sides of the porch?  That mason was able to match it to the stone under the bay window going back seventy years when the house was built.  What a professional.

So that's it, another post chock full of ramblings.  I have some writing to do for the papers, but I hope to get back soon.  And those tamales...what did I get into????

Jane x

Thursday, October 26, 2017

CELEBRATE




I have finally sat down to get a post out to you, and I've also promised myself I will be in bed by 11:00 p.m. tonight.  We'll see.

This has been a few weeks of ups and downs and beyond.  The personal challenges, and the fickle weather have me feeling there is nothing we can be sure of anymore.  I'm happy to say the landscaping project on the front side of our city house is finally finished.  I'm going to share pics and explain what we did in my next post.  Everything turned out beyond beautiful and what I had expected.  Removing the ivy that covered all of the brick (and some windows, partially!), as well as some overgrown bushes that were past their prime, made all the difference in the world.   

Sadly, we had to have a majestic maple tree cut down this week.  We were able to get financial help on the public walkway (which we are responsible for maintaining), if we agreed to have it removed, as it's roots were the cause of the walkway buckling.  We were a lawsuit waiting to happen.  The work on the tree went on yesterday and today.  When a large limb would come down on the street, my house would shake.  The workers said they believed it was the biggest tree they had ever seen in our area.  




***Stump of maple.  Note my wee feet**


This makes me beyond upset.  Our house is surrounded by trees, and we have had our share of damage after heavy storms.  We have all of them trimmed up every few years., and this guy was definitely as healthy as could be.  I'm going to miss seeing that maple when I look out the living room window, or feel that dappled sun in the morning.  My hands were tied.  

The sidewalk will be repaired in the spring and the stump removed.  We will choose another tree (or two).   I want something that grows quickly.  I like the shade and I don't like looking across the street at other houses.  I have heard that the non-fruit-bearing pear tree is a fast grower and very pretty.  If anyone is from the Midwest and wants to chime in, please do.  


*****

Sometime after I wrote my last post I had a little 'incident'.  I've been suffering from extreme dry eye disease for years and it has worsened with the new meds I've been taking since July for the eczema.  One morning I was feeling my way to my dresser for my eye drops, trying not to open my dry, scratchy eyes, when I blinked and felt the most excruciating pain in my left eye.  I actually bent over and rocked back and forth.  When I could manage to get the drops near the eye, I couldn't bear to open it.  I called my eye doctor, and then Abby, who by the grace of God was off work that week, and she took me to the doctor.  She did remark, first thing after walking through my door, "You really need to learn to call Uber."  Uumm...what happened to family?!



The diagnosis was a large flap tear of the cornea.  My eye doctor is normally a really neat, slap happy sort of guy, and he was not acting very slap happy at all.  He said the tear was not pretty, when I blinked, the flap tissue was moving up and down.  I was started on antibiotics and pain meds for the first 12 hours and then I was back to see him.  The piece had fallen off and became an abrasion.  His biggest worry was that the scarring could cause me to lose the sight in that eye.  I can now say that all went well, and I have a tiny scar that didn't cause any permanent damage.  He is trying to get my insurance to cover the daily eye drops, they are over $300 per month.  If I don't get on these drops, I will continue to erode my eye surface.  Still waiting to hear, and using my little Refresh over-the-counter drops every few hours.  I keep the tubes on my night stand.  




So, I couldn't write a post if I wanted to.  Luckily I had a few newspaper columns in my files so I didn't miss any work obligations.  I managed to comment on a few blogs here and there when I could, without overdoing it.  




Emily and Mike had the most fantastic 1st Birthday Party for Madelyn last Saturday.  I had been on pins and needles for the weeks after she asked me if she could have the party in our backyard, since it's large.  Late October in Chicago is not pretty, and I had no room in my house for the amount of family and friends (and little ones) she had invited.  Thankfully, it was in the mid-seventies and not a cloud in the sky.  

Emily should be a party planner.  Her ideas are so unique and she spent many hours working on a lot of sweet and clever ideas to make it a party to remember.  Here are a few shots:



A pretty table with pics of Madelyn and a self serve popcorn station.  The sun is making my photo wonky, but see the cute pink boxes?



For guests coming through the gate, a table was set up with cute cards to fill out and put in a basket as a sort of 'time capsule'.   Beautiful words were written about Madelyn, at age 1, to be opened when she is 18 in 2034.   I'm not even going to do the math on how old I'll be.  As long as I'm there, I'm happy.  :) 



The food was provided by a local Mexican restaurant.  And they are excellent.  How cool is this?  Made to order and hot off the grill.  I think the neighbors were envious, the smell of grilled steak, chicken and pork filled the air.



All of the condiments were set out by the cooks to help ourselves to.  When they were ready to leave, and they stayed a few hours, all of the extra food was wrapped up as leftovers, and off they went, as if they had never been there.  No clean up, nothing.  This was genius!





And finally, the Birthday Girl!   Well her actual birthday is a little over a week from now-I bet there will be another celebration.  Hopefully not here!  That's Abby's old highchair.  Emily painted it at the lake a few weeks ago.  Pretty.  Back it goes for all the little beebies!




I have something I want to share even though it makes my throat ache to put it in words.  I took Milo to the vet this past Saturday after Abby had noticed he had a few more fatty tumors around his neck.  They weren't though, they were swollen lymph nodes and he was diagnosed with cancer.  Our veterinarian is great.  He was straightforward, but also stressed that I wait for the blood work.  Lymphoma in canines does not have a good prognosis.  Even though Milo looks healthy for his age, he had 4 to 6 weeks to live.  

I could dig not very deep at all into my heart, and write triple what you really don't need to hear.  I don't want to make this a drama, you all know Milo pretty well; we have a very special relationship.  He's my buddy.  My companion.  Every. Single. Day.

So the lab work came back absolutely positive.  Since Abby had found the lumps weeks ago, he seriously didn't have much time.  Canines succumb very quickly to the disease.  Of course I read everything I could get my hands on*, and my vet spoke at length with me.  It was decided we would start chemotherapy.  I know it's very debatable to do this with an older pet, I can't say I know anyone who has a dog or cat who has ever gone this route.  But it might buy Milo as much as 6-9 more months.  

He had his first treatment yesterday.  I brought him in the morning, he was slightly sedated, and received the meds through a catheter.  He was sent home with Prednisone and a medication to be given if he had diarrhea, vomiting, wasn't eating, or became dehydrated.  I think just the commotion  of being at the clinic made him tired, and I was definitely stressed out after 3 days of crying and grappling with decision.  We took a looooong afternoon nap--this is him in the photo after his first chemo treatment.  Today he is eating, following me around, and even chased a squirrel across the backyard.  

I've spent days feeling every emotion an animal lover can feel.  Part of me wanted to just let things follow their own course, how could I go through this pain twice?  I was about to do that when I asked the doctor, "If this was your dog, what would you do?"  He didn't hesitate.  "I'd want more time."  And then I made up my mind. 

 Sigh.  This was so hard to put into words.  

I'll keep you posted (of course), but I intend on being as upbeat as possible as we live out this time together.  And I'm going to make it the best time ever!  Please say a prayer for my Mister.

Jane x

*If you are interested in one of the many websites I searched related to lymphoma in dogs, here is a link.


Sunday, October 8, 2017

FREE FALLIN


Dining Table, Fall 2017

Simple, simple, I brought up a few fall pieces from downstairs.  These cute faux fruit went into an old bowl, and a Pier 1 sale candle went into the lantern that's been there all summer with various candles.  I also couldn't pass up these wool and straw place mats sold in a pack at HomeGoods for pennies.  I'm good until Christmas, ladies.  

I packed up a small box for daughter, Abby and Tom, and their apartment.  She said she was going to Marshall's, and I said, "Please, I am Marshall's, just a smaller version."  Name your season or holiday.  I really have to purge through some of this stuff.  I was glad to see some pics she texted me of some of the candle holders, and faux pumpkins I sent off with Tom.  The pumpkin has gold dots on it - I'm thinking that's a hip sort of thing she'd like.



My Beloved Island, Fall 2017

My island is always a great sense of joy for me.  It has a marble top, perfect for keeping dough chilled as you roll it out for pies or cookies, or not.  I just like to decorate it.  I've never rolled out a darn thing.  That's what stone counters are for.  Sometimes when we've had holidays or a party, I've been forced to move things off so we can put actual food on it.  It truly saddens me.


Kitchen Island, 2011 (sort of)

For those of you who didn't know me 6 years ago,  I crossed my fingers, whined, begged and coerced the hubby into buying the island.  It was definitely one for Blondie's Journals - Strange But True Tales.

I came upon this gem while perusing my Pottery Barn catalog and it was instant love.  Our kitchen in the city isn't large by any means, but we did knock out walls to open it up and we had a lot of space in the middle.  Maybe a chopping block or something would have been a bit more practical, but I wanted this reclaimed wood baby.  After I tried all of my wild and woolly female wiles,  I tore out the page from the catalog, and in my own version of copy and paste, I inserted moi!  It's a wee bit out of perspective -  I'm seriously not that tiny, nor is the island that humongous. You can enlarge to see my desperate note.  The rest is history.  

Getting back to my vignette, I won these gorgeous velvet pumpkins in a giveaway hosted by Debra at  Common Ground, 2 years ago.   I adore them.



On a side table in the living room, I had to keep it small and sweet.  These sweater pumpkins were made by the lovely Jody, at Rooted In Thyme.  All of these pumpkins come out every year without fail.  

I had some pics of the fireplace hearth and mantel, but decided it needed to be tweaked.  Funny how you see things differently through the camera lens.  I'll get to that in my next post...unless it's already Christmas.


Jane's Chili 

I shared this on Instagram.  Click HERE to follow me for more frequent posts than I do blogging, lol!  Anyway, I made this Chili the other night, my basic recipe, but sometimes you mess around and come up with something better than your best.  The Husband and I really loved it, and I thought I'd share.  Please ignore the garish photos, you all know I can't take a good food picture.  Also, everyone has their own favorite chili recipe,  but keep your mind open; you might just want to try some of my twists.  Please read the recipe through before you even shop or start.  I've noted changes you might not have in your arsenal of ingredients for Chili.

Jane's Chili

1 1/2 lb. ground beef, or 4 freshly prepared beef Pub Burgers*
1 large onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped finely
3 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can of black or kidney beans (or your choice)
1 c beef broth
2 T chili powder
1 t red pepper flakes
1 T sugar
2 t ground cumin
2 t ground cinnamon
S & P to taste

Sour cream, cheddar cheese, radish slices, or whatever you like for garnish.

***

Notes:  Rather than an ordinary package of ground beef, I had a package of pre-made 'Pub Burgers' from my grocery store.  The are what they sound like; fresh, firm, and ready to throw on the grill.  Except it was not grilling weather and I felt the frozen meat was going to start going downhill soon.  But---the clouds parted as I stubbornly jabbed at these rounds of beef with my wooden spoon to break them up as they cooked in the skillet.  I was left with some larger chunks, as opposed to little morsels of ground beef.  And that was the beauty of it all.  The chunks, much like steak, soaked up the liquid and spices and held firm, and it was like quite different.  I highly recommend doing your next Chili this way if you do have access to pre-made burgers.  I haven't quite figured out the 'binder' in Pub Burgers, but they certainly held their own in sautéing and cooking in the broth.  

Brown beef in a large skillet or dutch oven over medium heat, breaking it up until cooked through.  Remove to a bowl or plate.  Sauté the onion, peppers, and garlic over low heat until just tender.  Add the tomatoes, beans, broth, beef, and remaining spices, stirring well to incorporate.  Place in oven, covered for 1 hour.  You can then go off and do laundry or take a bubble bath if you so desire.  I hate to watch things cook slowly on the stove.  So many better things to do.

*And now, the addition of cinnamon.  Just do it for crying out loud.  I am not telling you to add a cup of horseradish or a can of beets.  Just do it and thank me later.   :)))



A couple of photos of Miss Madelyn.  I love this outfit.  I think she borrowed it from Princess Charlotte.  So cute.  Already reading books about pumpkin vignettes.  


I can't figure out her secret for always looking just perfect for the camera, especially when she has no clue what's going on.  

She turns 1 year old on November 11, but her party will be here at my house, outdoors, in two weeks.  Keep your fingers crossed the weather isn't like it normally is in October, or better yet, a simple miracle. ;-D

*****

In other news, our landscaping project is almost done.  The grass seedlings are popping up everywhere, the bushes and plants that my favorite lady gardener chose are beyond gorgeous.  I have a sweet Japanese maple that won't tower over our house in 2 years, arborvitae that will stay green all winter long, conical boxwood (who knew?), and  a few smaller 'fill in' plants.  I picked up a few mums, not many, to have next to the steps, and I'm off tomorrow for some pansies for my urn on the porch.  And then I might post some pics.  Unless it snows.  Stranger things have happened in Chicago.

The tables have been turned and I've been home alone in the city while The Husband piddles around at the lakehouse.  I was supposed to meet up with him the day after he left but I have that old virus rearing it's ugly head.  You guys already know, the virus is much like mononucleosis, but not related. Still, with both, all you want to do is sleep, get up to use the bathroom, shove some potato chips in your mouth and go back to bed.  I even bought a pretty new bathrobe to cover up the PJ's I rarely change.  If someone comes to the house I just look beautiful and contagious and they quickly leave.

So it's funny having The Husband at the lake alone.  He texts/calls me about every hour.  Last night he was trying to make a pizza in the oven and he was all messed up because there didn't seem to be an 'Off' button and he was afraid the oven would stay on until eternity.  Well, to Whirlpool, 'Off' and 'Cancel' are interchangeable, and The Husband needed a Valium with his pizza.  He's also very lonely.    And bored.  

Sadly, my input involves things like clean the garage, shed, attic.  Hang my shelves, pictures, hooks.  Wash the windows, inside and out and wipe down the trim.  Sadly, this just makes him lonely, bored and downright angry.  

A storm came through here in southeast Chicago about 4:00 p.m. today, and as usual, it blows over Lake Michigan to the East and hits the area where our cottage is.  I forewarned The Husband via a text and he was happy.  He wanted to know where the candles, flashlights and phone chargers were.  I told him I was more concerned with him bringing in the beach chair cushions and covering his truck bed up.  When I suggested that he leave the balcony doors off the bedroom open tonight to see and feel the curtains blow dramatically, this was the last text I received.  

*****Seriously, I'm slow with my writing and awake hours...ha!  But really serious, I am so heartbroken about what happened in Las Vegas.  How many of us have been there?  There is a happy go lucky vibe 24/7.  It's a fun time with family and/or friends.  To be caught in an attack by an insane person is beyond comprehension.  I can't add to anything you've read or heard.  I just feel a deep feeling of loss for what our world has become, the one we are leaving behind to our children and grandchildren.  40+ years ago it was war, country against country.  Now it is a battlefield anywhere in the US where a violent person/persons can delight in bloodshed.  

*****Love and prayers to all affected by the multiple hurricanes.  It has been entirely too much ocean fury.  We are countries  united and wanting to aid, help and pray for the survival and rebuilding of these countries, even our own island, Puerto Rico.  Did I pronounce that correctly? (!)

The coverage on TV may seem too much, my friends, and I respect that.  Still, I will never turn away from anything that is happening in our world.  No, I don't stay glued to my TV, nor do I immerse myself in newspapers or news websites, too much is too much.  I pray that our country continues to hear people speak, shout, write, and rant for what is so obvious...global warming issues, gun control, freedom of speech, and voices everywhere, everyday, every minute, making it known that our leader is not leading.  I've gone out on a limb which I have never, ever done on my blog.  I am smart.  I am informed.  I have a political voice.  I am a humanitarian, a mother who worries about the next generation, a very frustrated woman who wants peace worldwide.  Please, let's all raise our voices. 

Jane x 

*****The title of my post is dedicated to the late Tom Petty.  Rest in peace you talented and much loved musician.